Business is a sprint, not a marathon

If business is a marathon, not a sprint, and I can complete a marathon in about 4 or 5 hours, then business sounds pretty simple.

Is there a flaw in this metaphor? This over-used aphorism. Try search-engining ‘business is marathon, not a sprint’ and see how many hits you get.

In reading The Fantasy of Discipline I was reminded of Robin Hanson’s discussion about the free medicine most people ignore almost every day: exercise. (There is an incentive problem.)


I was lucky. My mother instilled exercise into me like Gary Vaynerchuk’s mother instilled self-esteem.

She tricked me. My after school hours (and sometimes my before school hours) were spent in training.

For me, though, it was mostly fun. I was playing sports!

Games where I learned toughness and grit, winning and losing. How to collaborate, how to compete.

I say Amen when someone like Will Smith says he will die before a complete stranger goes longer on the treadmill than him. I say Amen when Richard Branson provides a three-word response to his success: “I work out.”


Collectively we have a fantasy of discipline. It would be nice if I could write a novel, run a marathon, bootstrap a business and actually contribute real economic value to society.

One of my mentors-from-afar, Andrew Warner, once ran a marathon around San Francisco. By himself.

Marathons can be run in a few hours.

We don’t need to run marathons. We need to run many of them. And do much harder things than simply run. But daily exercise is a start.

When I audited what I do, I discovered this. Exercise and writing are the only two things (apart from eating and sleeping) I do every day.

If you think it is hard to exercise daily, you’re right. Living a good life is. Would you want it any other way, though?

Allons Travailler!